Like most of my travel wish list items the inspiration for the white Rann also found its way through one of the blogs posts. The author's experience described was very riveting with beautifully sculpted words. I have always heard about this beautiful place through my geography textbooks and my interest in science taught me its formation due to salinity etc. A few clicks on the internet and I was assured to make it to the Rann of Kutch as my next travel destination.
Okay, the first thing I check for in a destination is the flight connectivity. I have rarely travelled by trains so far and my longest train journey was only for adventure sake from Mumbai to Dehradun (42Hrs.). Will share the story some other day, but now coming back to the Rann
A usual checklist for visiting any place in the order of priority is:
1. Number of days for the plan (leaves + connecting holidays)
2. Places/cities to visit.
3. Interconnectivity between the places. I actually draw a map on my plan book with distances.
4. At least one best thing about the local culture.
5. Food (preferably the local cuisines) and the best places to have it.
6. Stay Options.
Called up a travel friend, with this draft plan and he agreed to join. We mutually agreed to encash on the 4 day extended weekend for republic day. Maximum we can stretch up to 5 days. We chalked out a mini tour of most happening things to do in Gujrat. A rough draft was to start from Mumbai, visit the Rann, go to Ahmedabad, visit the Sabarmati riverfront and Gandhi Ashram, cover the Gir national park, maybe stretch upto Somnath, come back to Rajkot and fly back to Mumbai.This post talks about my experience at the Rann of Kutch.
To give you a little background, Rann of Kutch is a desert in the state of Gujrat popularly known as the white desert. The entire desert contains a high amount of salt, giving it a pristine white look. The Rann Utsav is organised event by the Gujrat Tourism in the months of November to February and is very popular among culture enthusiasts and photographers alike. The Utsav is setup in the mid of the desert in a village called 'Dhordo' (Approx 80Kms from Bhuj) and all the arrangements are done solely for this period, for the rest of the year the desert is a swamp. Imagine an artificial town set.
Booking a tent in the Rann Utsav is as easy and hassle-free as it can be. The tent booking includes your accommodation, food and travel ie. Pickup and drop facility from Bhuj, the stay, all the meals including morning breakfast to evening tea and dinner, local transport within the town. The tents are split into clusters of 20-30 tents and there are around 9-10 such clusters. Apart from the residential tents they also have huge areas for events in the evening, a huge dining area for all the guests, a marketplace, a sports and recreation arena and small golf carts to connect to all these places internally.
We decided to take a train journey from Mumbai this time, the kutch express starts in the evening from Bandra Terminus and drops you at Bhuj by breakfast in the morning with an overnight journey. My priority on all travel trips in the morning is to secure the cleanest water available and emergency food for the day. Thankfully, I got Bislery bottles at Bhuj station so I got around 4 bottles for the day and two more considering the fact that I will be in a remote area for the next day as well.The railway station canteen also has facility for sumptuous breakfast. With a drop of sanitizer on hands we decided to try the famous local cuisine, 'Onion kachori'. Little aware of the surprise coming our way and unsure of the arrangements at the Utsav we loaded a heavy breakfast like it's the best meal of the day. The Rann utsav team had asked to assemble outside station for registration. A big tent setup outside the station already had started giving hints of grandeur event. The staff checked us in with a few paper formalities, a few paper confirmations and a cup of coffee as a welcome drink, the team handed us a pass for the Bus that would take us from Bhuj to Dhordo.Since, the seats were already allocated in a comfortable Volvo bus, the typical Indian 'adjust kar lo' conversation with fellow tourists was best avoided.At the start of the journey itself we were given a goodie bag containing everything from chips to farsan to frooty packets, few chocolates etc, but the heavy breakfast had left no room for any of these.The goodie bag quietly made its way into my backpack. All throught the journey one can only be amazed at the expanse of acres and acres of cracked land with no sign of human for miles together. My favourite travel companion book quickly lapsed the journey of 2 Hrs and we were in Dhordo. The first look at the place gives a grand and warm welcome feeling. The luggage is transferred with the guests to their respective allocated tents with the help of those cute little golf carts. Since my tent was situated in few clusters away I got a chance to see the huge place on the way itself. It takes time to register the topography of the entire town but it's not that difficult once you get acclimatised to the place in a few hours.
The Tent : I was always used to the basic tents we encounter on most of the treks with minimal facilities and in full honesty I have never imagined a tent setup to be this grand ever. This place has changed my perception about the comfort you can have in a tent. The tent has a full-fledged washroom, a comfortable bed, a wardrobe, a sitting area outside and also an air-conditioner. At the time of booking on the website, you have multiple options for luxurious tents and duration of the stay to choose from. Some unpacking followed by lunch and an afternoon nap summed up to the evening.
In the evening itinerary the team had organised a desert safari to the vast Rann, a few minutes away from dhordo village. An open camel cart ride took us to the destination and I as I look at the vastness of white desert looks unbelievable in the first glimpse. It's like a fairy tale. A vast stretch of white sheet as far as your eyes can see, right up to the horizon, the cool breeze , slanted golden rays of sun that make the desert glitter like acres of crystals. You can spend hours together just admiring the unfathomable beauty of the vast land. Standing there I have never felt more peaceful with myself. Everything is so calm and serene. Hard to sketch a visual in words, it is way more beautiful than something I have read about in the blog post, the inspiration for this trip. Nearby I could hear the music of a local Rajasthani band playing 'Padhaaro mhare des'.It is the perfect setting to be.
The Food : A big dining area tent (as huge as a Circus tent) serving a multicuisine buffet is located in the town. The dining area take care of all the food requirements during the day including the meals, evening tea, morning breakfast etc and the servings include more than everything you can eat at a time right from parathas to naan's and roti's, from salads to Raita and multiple vegetables to dal and an array of deserts to choose from. Same is the case with morning breakfast. You can choose to stroll up to the dining tent or the golf carts are always there to help you out.Jain food option is available.
The entire town is connected by tar roads and foot paths with lamp posts, so and after dinner walk or even a morning jog is the best way to explore the area. You can visit a small market area setup for some traditional and local made articrafts/ clothes. A few articles I found interesting were the local 'Suf embroidery' works, wood carved pieces, and beautiful pen knives. For Adventure Junkies they arrange for some adventure rides, but they are subject to availability at the time of visit and are charged separately from the Rann Utsav package you choose. For other recreational activities there is a club house that includes a pool table, trampoline, chess, table tennis and other indoor games.
All said, I had a splendiferous time exploring the Rann. It was long pending item on my checklist and is now upgraded to a must visit destination.
Links : Rann utsav website
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